Top 12 nature walks in and around the Dandenong Ranges for those experiencing mobility challenges

Top 12 nature walks in and around the Dandenong Ranges for those experiencing mobility challenges

Katerina Volny, Emerald Psychology Practice, Hiked & Outer Eastern Persistent Pain Group

For those with low mobility, chronic pain or illness, a disability, or recovering from an injury, you can still enjoy the benefits of nature in this beautiful part of the world. Here is a guide to some accessible places with descriptions of what to expect when you get there. Everyone deserves to enjoy nature.

 

Before you start, consider: What are your needs? 

 

  • Ask your GP, Physiotherapist, Osteopath, or other relevant health professionals for guidance.
  • How far can I comfortably walk?Start with this, and gradually increase if you think that’s a good idea. It can be rewarding to come back to the same location another time and explore a little further.
  • Are you best on more even and relatively flat paths?– this guide will describe the nature of the paths you will encounter so you can plan a comfortable experience.  If in doubt, just walk a short way and find a spot to take in the nature around you. See the mindfulness guide at the end of this article for some ideas.
  • You might benefit from support, and enjoy the company, of a friend, a personal trainer, or another support person.
  • Comfortable footwear can help a lot.For flat trails walking or sports shoes are fine. When you start trying steep, slippery. or rocky trails hiking shoes with a good grip are best. Hiking poles can provide additional stability, and they will take a bit of practice to get used to.
  • Clothing right for the weather forecast, sunscreen, snake awareness, water and food, and phone reception (can be a bit patchy in the Dandenong Ranges), are all important considerations to make your walk safe and enjoyable.
  • About snake awareness: In warmer months especially, walk where you can see the path ahead of you, stop if you see a snake, and let them go on their way.You might prefer to wear long pants and covered shoes for protection. If a person is bitten ensure they stop moving, call 000, and immobilise and bandage the limb (you can get snake bandages that show you how tightly to stretch the bandage).
  • A great little first aid guide from the red cross:https://www.redcross.org.au/getmedia/5dffad88-5373-480d-98e0-d1c1ae519420/13598-RED-Essential-First-Aid-Guide-eBook-HR-FA.pdf.aspx
  • Did you know? Parks Victoria has a disability access program in the Sherbrooke Forest.Volunteers support all-terrain wheelchair access with specially designed chairs for the forest. For more information see the website: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/all-abilities-access/all-terrain-wheelchairs

Some top easy-access spots:

  1. Emerald Lake Park – from main Car Park

Emerald Lake Road, Emerald

At this location, there is a flat path around the lake with beautiful views and plenty of birdlife, and it is also a station for the puffing billy steam train. Parking fees of $6 per day apply. Toilets are available, and dogs on the lead are allowed. This area is suitable for prams and wheelchairs. Additional paths can be explored. For a longer walk try the path near the bridge across the lake where there is a wide flat gently sloping gravel path through the ferns.

  1. Emerald Museum area

Crichton Rd, Emerald

This area can be less busy than Emerald Lake Park. It has some heritage gardens to explore on a gentle slope, and at times the museum may also be open. For a longer walk of about 3kms return with a well-made path on a hill, there are several sloping gravel paths that lead down towards Emerald Lake Park. Take the one on the left as you head down for a less steep incline.

  1. Birdsland

271 Mt Morton Rd, Belgrave Heights

For best accessibility park at the car park inside the park. From here you can take the trail past the notice board. A 1km loop will take you past one lake and to a view of another, stick to the left to get back to the car park. For a 2km loop go around the large lake as well, and enjoy the birdlife of Birsdland, which actually got its name after the original owners, the Birds family. Picnic facilities and toilets are available, and dogs are welcome on leads. The longer walk of about 2kms takes you around the second lake as well and leads you past a designated dog swimming area. The path is suitable for prams and wheelchairs.

Another option is to take the road that is heading past the car park, and then take the trail on your right. In a couple of hundred meters, there is a gate on your left to a wetland boardwalk – this is a peaceful place to listen to the frog songs. For a short but very steep uphill walk, take the path off to the left of this road and you will be rewarded with city views at the top.

  1. Wrights Forest

Corner of Wright Rd and Dalziel Rd, Avonsleigh

There is a parking space on this corner with a mild slope, leading on to Wright track, a flat wide gravel path. You can walk up to about 3kms return on this path, or for a longer walk take paths to the left or right going up or down the hill. Dogs on leads are allowed.

  1. Cardinia Reservoir

Cardinia Creek Road, Emerald

There are two easy-access options for this location. Go straight ahead from Cardinia Creek Road and park at the first car park at the top to have access to the flat walk with spectacular views along the dam walls. Sometimes you can spot kangaroos sunbathing down below. Continue past the first car park and then turn right to get to the bottom car park to access the parkland below with flat paths. Picnic areas and toilets are at this location. Kangaroos are often spotted here early or late in the day. If you would like to go further there is a hillside path between these two locations. Other hilly paths with reasonably well-made paths around the edge of this park totaling about a 7km loop.

  1. Sherbrooke Forest

Grants Picnic Ground, Monbulk Rd, Kallista

This is a popular tourist spot with a cafe and toilets. To get to a peaceful spot with a flat path turn right upon entry to the picnic ground and head to the very end of the parking section. From here there is a beautiful relatively flat path with tall trees. Sometimes wildlife is seen here. There is also a flat path alongside the car park heading back to the cafe with information about local wildlife. Outside the shop, there is signage to show you another short but hilly walk on the other side of the cafe. The entire loop track of this section of Sherbrooke Forest includes steep hills and is about 8km long. You could also walk up to the Kallista main street from here and enjoy some beautiful shops and cafes.

  1. Sherbrooke Forest

Conner Grantulla Rd and Neuman Track, Kallista

There are several parking spots that allow entry to the Sherbrooke Forest along Grantulla Rd. This one allows for relatively flat path walking in both directions, towards Kallista you will head towards the Cooks Corner tea rooms (about 1km), and away from Kallista, you will head towards a clear with dragons’ nests (about 1km).

  1. The Tan, Sherbrooke

Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke

There are several options for parking at the Ferny Creek Reserve (access from Clarkmont Rd), at The Piggery Cafe, or across the road from Alfred Nichols Gardens. This 2 to 3 km long trail follows along Sherbrooke Rd with views of the forest. It is quite flat and wide, and good for prams and wheelchairs, and dogs on leads. There is an option for a moderate hill-climb path from The Piggery Cafe that leads up the hill instead of along the road to the rear of Ferny Creek Reserve. There are options of visiting the beautifuyl Alfred Nichols and George Tindal Gardens as well as The Piggery Cafe.

  1. Baluk Willam Nature Conservation Reserve

Corner of Courtneys Road and Orchid Rd and Corner of Courtneys Road ad Denham Rd, Belgrave South

This is a lovely quiet bushland park where you can spot a huge variety of tiny orchid flowers. Park at the Orchid Rd intersection car park for about 1km relatively flat walk with information about local orchids. Either walk back along the roadside path (a rugged uneven path with some slopes and puddles) or park at the corner of Denham Rd to enter another section of this reserve. Take the path into this reserve near the corner and stick to your left for an about 3km bushland path walk with some mild sloping sections.

 

  1. Hamer Arboretum

10 Chalet Rd, Olinda

This spot has a great view from the car park. From there you will encounter some well-made gravel paths with hills. For a short walk of about 1km, you can head down the hill near the entrance to the car park and just until you see the beautiful pond on your left. It is also fun to wonder on the grassy hillside among the giant Christmas tree-like conifers that you can see from the car park, just stick to the places where the grass has been cut during warm weather to be able to steer clear of snakes.

(There is also an off-leash dog area with views at the old Olinda Public Golf Course nearby.)

  1. One Tree Hill Picnic Ground

Lord Somers Rd, Tremont

Walk for a few hundred meters around the parkland grounds on relatively flat paths amongst tall trees and see Anzac memorials and monuments. Toilets and picnic facilities available. There are many trails with hills leading from this area. (It is near the top of the 1000 steps trail.) To walk a bit further on a gently sloping flat path, head down Ramu track as far as you are comfortable. You will find this track from the junction of Lord Somers Rd and One tree hill Rd, near the entrance to the picnic ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Just for you, enjoy mindfulness in nature…..

Be in the moment. Just notice yourself and your surroundings using your five senses. What is one thing you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch right now?

Notice your breath and allow it to settle into a regular rhythm with the pace of your stepsThis rhythm might change with the demands of the trail or what is on your mind. Allow your breath to slow your pace with uphill inclines, or speed up your pace if you want more physical activation. Find a just-right pace for you. 

Notice your thoughtsIf you have thoughts about not being good enough, see if you can leave them by the side of the trail. Cultivate kindness towards yourself by congratulating yourself for choosing to be where you are right now and thank your body for taking you on this journey. 

Be curious to see what comes up in your experience. What is happening in nature around you? Your attention may be divided between noticing the path and what is around you; plants, wildlife, the sky. What comes to your mind? Would you like to contemplate what is on your mind, or return your attention to your surroundings?